tips for the toast

wedding toast
When Kristen and Justin got married this summer, they had a modest reception. Their resources were limited, and the food was sort of a dessert pot-luck.

But they didn’t skimp on the toasts. They had met in the drama circle at the university, and both the best man (brother) and the matron of honor (roommate) were experienced performers— their speeches seemed polished and thoughtful.

Not everyone chooses as wisely as Justin and Kristen. You don’t have to look far on youtube for wedding toasts that are tasteless, inappropriate or just plain stupid, especially by best (?) men who didn’t think of what they were going to say until they stood up and then didn’t think about what they were saying until they sat down. If then.

Katie and I attend several weddings a year and sometimes it’s painful. It makes you wish there were auditions. Or an age limit—I’m thinking 35. I can’t imagine life as a wedding photographer, listening to shallow people talking about themselves every weekend.

So if you are choosing someone to stand up with you, make sure they are mature, thoughtful people. Find someone who understands how to make people laugh while reminding them of something serious. Even if it is your dad.

How to give a wedding toast

And if you have been asked to do this, I’ve got some suggestions:

Don’t wing it.
Your friend hopes to do this once in a lifetime. Don’t dishonor him or her by confusing laughter with love. An anecdote or two? That’s great, if they remind us of the person’s generosity or ingenuity. But a series of embarrassing moments simply says you didn’t take the time to consider or remember the more ennobling ones.

Keep it short.
Make an outline. Or write it out. This helps keep your comments on track. Generally, the less people have to say, the longer they talk. You will start repeating yourself or you will leave out something that needed to be said. Treat this as a moment worthy of reflection and preparation. And practice.

Don’t talk about yourself.
This is your friend’s day. A little context is good, even necessary. But don’t tell us all about your relationship with your friend. Tell us about your friend. There is a difference. Don’t just tell us what they did for you. Tell us what you’ve seen them do for strangers.

Get a grip.
I’ve heard wedding toasts that sounded like therapy sessions, and to some degree they are, I suppose. But we didn’t come to hear you talk about your own emotions, although a heart-felt tear or two feels genuine and even touching. But remember, most of us don’t even know you. We do know the bride or groom. Help us understand and appreciate them more, and try to keep it from getting too sappy.

Point us beyond the moment.
So no, it is not about you. And to some degree it is not about them either. We have all come as witnesses, of which you are only one, to something God does—He brings a man and a woman together and makes them one flesh. Remind them (and us) of how serious and important this is. Fewer and fewer people are doing what they are doing, and even fewer are continuing to it. Remind us all that this is holy and sacred. Because it is.

Say thanks.
You were trusted to do this. It’s an honor you’ve been given from among all the many people they know and love. When you are done acknowledge this and sit down.

You can read my favorite wedding toast ever at the end of this post.

3 thoughts on “tips for the toast”

  1. Hi Dr. Metts,
    I teach a weekly public speaking course for groups of 7-12 home-schooled teens. One of our first lessons is “how to give an edifying toast.” Armed with ginger ale & cheap plastic champagne goblets from a party store, my students practice this skill in class following a set of instructions very similar to the ones in your post. Several of my alums have reported that giving a toast was their first “real world” public speaking experience, and they’re grateful it was part of our course.

    The first photo of your post prompts me to add another tip to the toast instructions: “Neaten your appearance” before speaking! 🙂

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